Tara Naughton, one of Fresh Start’s dedicated medical volunteers, Fresh Start’s Medical Program Intern, AND a nursing student at Cal State San Marcos, wanted to share her experience since becoming involved with Fresh Start Surgical Gifts:
July 14th and 15th marked the completion of my participation in four Fresh Start Surgery Weekends; I began volunteering with Fresh Start this past January. I thought that I would share some of the highlights that occurred during each of these four Surgery Weekends, as I took on the role of Patient Care Assistant.
JANUARY: What stood out most to me this weekend was the kindness of everyone that is involved in Fresh Start: the employees, the volunteers, and the patients alike; I felt so immediately welcome and as if I were meant to be there. Since I am a nursing student, all of the nurses took me under their wing and started to show me the ropes. In addition, I was excited to improve my Spanish-language skills with many of the patients, and to just overall feel like I was making a difference in these children and young adult’s lives. I remember feeling absolutely elated when one of the patient’s mothers gave me a hug as we said goodbye outside of the hospital, after I had transported the patient to their car.
MARCH: I had been looking forward to this Surgery Weekend ever since the prior one. This time, I assisted in Pre-Op (pre-surgery), and then remained in PACU Phase II (post-surgery) for the remainder of the day. It was very special to have seen all of the patients before their surgeries, and then to help care for them after. The following Sunday morning at the Fresh Start Clinic, I acted as volunteer host, and I was able to see them all again and chat with them about how the previous night had passed. It is impressive to see them all dressed up, smiling, and quickly healing.
MAY: This Surgery Weekend was a genuinely monumental time in my life. I recognized patients, they recognized me, I knew what I was doing and was not fumbling around quite as much. Multiple people even expressed gratitude for my help. I will never forget how I was able to calm down a very upset one-year old patient, Jackline, enough to obtain her pre-operative vital signs. When her host patted me on the back, looked me in the eyes, and told me that I had done a good job, I felt that I was fighting back tears. Then Pedro’s mother told me that my Spanish was getting better every time I saw them, which was a huge motivator to continue learning. The following Sunday at the clinic was also exciting because I was invited inside to assist with assessments – I ended up spending the day at the laser clinic helping to sign in patients and prep them for their treatments.
JULY: What I realized this weekend is how much I enjoy transporting the patients from PACU Phase II out to their cars, as simple a thing as this seems. This is when we get to talk and I really find out about their lives. I spent a good ten minutes talking with E.J about his life in Minnesota; his school, his job, and his future plans. I can feel their relief being out of the hospital, and they are always very open and happy to chat. They are so kind, because they always ask me about my life as well!
Overall I just have to say that Fresh Start is a life-changing organization, not only for its patients, but also for its volunteers. There is not any other way to feel so fulfilled, and to feel like I truly am transforming a child’s life. I am so thankful to have been accepted into the Fresh Start family and I look forward to the coming years when I can offer my growing nursing and interpreting skills in bigger and better ways.